Thailand has just passed a new law that prohibits smoking in public places - this includes hotel lobbies, offices, restaurants and cafes, private karaoke rooms (hooray), massage parlors and spas , bus stops , MRT and the Skytrain and any indoor air-conditioned facility where the public congregates. The ban excludes bars, nightclubs and in general, places of public entertainment. Supposedly there is a fine of 2000 baht (approx 60USD) for the individual offender and a fine of 20,000 Baht (approx 600USD) for the establishment which does not comply with this new law. As a nonsmoker who abhors cigarette smoke, I relish the idea of going into any restaurant in Thailand and enjoying my meal in a smoke free environment. That being said, the new law looks good on paper but I see some serious problems in terms of enforcement. I am praying to the Great Buddha in the sky that this new law will get enforced!
Not too many people realize that 2nd hand smoke is equally harmful as actually smoking a cigarette. To give you some idea - on my most recent trip to Thailand, I developed a bad case of smoker’s cough after I was inadvertently accommodated in a room for 6 days at The President Park Hotel in Bangkok that had been occupied by smokers. For the next 10 days or so, I had a very bad hacking cough. In addition, I had to tolerate the many European tourists - especially the French, German and Dutch- who seemingly have no hesitation about lighting up a cigarette as soon as they are seated at a restaurant. Most of these smokers are a very inconsiderate lot I hate to say - many will refuse to stop smoking even if politely asked.
Case in point - On my second day of my slow boat journey on the Mekong River to Luang Prabang, there was this Euro dude seated 2-3 rows ahead of me who pulled out a smoke shortly after the boat pulled away from the dock. As I was sitting downwind from him, I ended up having to ‘eat” his smoke. After watching him go through two cigarettes in a span of 15 minutes, I politely asked him to please refrain from smoking (I told him I that I was allergic to cigarette smoke). Well, the bloke stopped for about 10 minutes before he started smoking again. During the course of the next 7-8 hours, he must have smoked at least 20 cigarettes. Kind of rude and inconsiderate if you ask me but I didn’t say a word after that - I just covered my nose with my hand every time he lit one up, swearing under my breath. If this new nonsmoking ordinance is enforced, maybe this bloke would think twice about smoking if he had to pay a fine of 60USD. Oh well…
Now if they only could do something about the toxic exhaust fumes from automobiles, tuk-tuks and motorbikes that make the air so deadly to breathe in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Wishful thinking…. Happy New Year Everybody!